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Compose Our World: Project-Based Learning in Secondary English Language Arts

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Learn how to develop and sustain multimodal, project-based learning (PBL) instruction in secondary English Language Arts classrooms. National standards encourage authentic forms of reading, writing, and communication that can support college and career readiness, and this book highlights PBL as a powerful way to harness students’ interests and engage them in academically rigorous learning. The authors provide specific, research-informed curricular approaches and instructional guidance for classroom teachers, as well as an overview of the dimensions of PBL that are often overlooked in the broad expectations of inquiry-based teaching. Instead of “quick fix” lessons, Compose Our World explores how core dimensions of equitable teaching—such as social and emotional support, universal design for learning, and cultivating classroom community—function as the bedrock for student success in PBL contexts and beyond.

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Learn how to develop and sustain multimodal, project-based learning (PBL) instruction in secondary English Language Arts classrooms. National standards encourage authentic forms of reading, writing, and communication that can support college and career readiness, and this book highlights PBL as a powerful way to harness students’ interests and engage them in academically rigorous learning. The authors provide specific, research-informed curricular approaches and instructional guidance for classroom teachers, as well as an overview of the dimensions of PBL that are often overlooked in the broad expectations of inquiry-based teaching. Instead of “quick fix” lessons, Compose Our World explores how core dimensions of equitable teaching—such as social and emotional support, universal design for learning, and cultivating classroom community—function as the bedrock for student success in PBL contexts and beyond.

Book Features:

  • Based on the authors’ extensive experience developing and studying a PBL curriculum.
  • Brings PBL to life through classroom vignettes and teacher and student voices.
  • Provides classroom resources that facilitate customization to unique contexts.
  • Shares ideas for developing teacher communities around PBL practices.
  • Offers additional curriculum materials online.
  • Appropriate for ELA teachers new to PBL, as well as veterans.

Testimonial

Compose Our World offers English teachers welcome hope in these difficult times. In its pages, we see students—and teachers—whose experiences in school have been transformed by a turn toward meaningful projects they design and work through themselves, projects that can even change their communities for the better. And although these projects are not made primarily for a grade, the authors describe how students can be brought in on generating the specific criteria used for assessment. The work certainly fulfills state standards, but it goes far beyond them. This important book, which should be read by all high school English teachers, is both inspiring and practical. It shows that positive change in education is possible, provides practical guides to that change, and features exciting projects students made as they became agents for composing their world.”

—Teachers College Record

“This engaging book builds on and extends this focus on problem/inquiry-based instruction for engaging students in English language arts classrooms in making changes in their worlds.”
—From the Foreword by Richard Beach, professor emeritus, University of Minnesota

“Project-based learning has been in schools for over a century, in spite of reductive curriculum and assessment requirements imposed on teachers. The authors have produced a thoughtful, reflective, project-based approach for these challenging times, focused on the process of teaching students how to inquire into questions, produce multimodal texts that address authentic issues, and promote their development into active citizens.”
—Peter Smagorinsky, Distinguished Research Professor of English Education, University of Georgia

“With their CAPE (Caring, Advocacy, Perspective-taking, and Empathy) principles as a guiding framework—and with examples of student work that illustrate authentic, project-based learning—the authors of Compose Our World provide English Language Arts educators with practical assignments, robust assessment criteria, and a vision for empowering our youth as readers, writers, creators, and citizens.”
—Troy Hicks, professor of English and education, Central Michigan University

Compose Our World reimagines the English language arts classroom as a dynamic and welcoming community, where students harness powerful tools and strategies to make sense of their world. This is no fairy tale; vignettes show how ELA-meets-PBL is working with real students and real teachers to produce real results.”
—Suzie Boss, journalist and educational consultant

“This resource could not be more timely. The need to organize instruction around questions that are rich and meaningful to students, offer texts that will advance students’ knowledge building regarding these questions, provide opportunities for students to represent their knowledge-building in multiple ways, and teach toward social justice has never been greater. What a gift this volume is, especially at this moment.”
—Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, Ann L. Brown Distinguished University Professor of Education, University of Michigan

About the Authors

Alison G. Boardman is an associate professor in equity, bilingualism, and biliteracy in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. Antero Garcia is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Bridget Dalton is an associate professor in literacy studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Joseph L. Polman is a professor of learning sciences and associate dean for research in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder.

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